Enough is Enough

Ideas for a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources

Resources Wastes


Summary of the Report

and all of the wastes produced by it return to the environment. The first was to raise awareness about the substantial volume of scientific evidence that shows that economic growth (i. 2 . All of the inputs to the economy come from the environment. nef (the new economics foundation) Dan O’Neill – European Director. Since we live on a finite planet with limited resources. In the first place. Over 250 economists. non-growing economy in the UK. UK on 19th June 2010. is the concept of enough. The conference was organised by two non-profit organisations: Economic Justice for All and CASSE (the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy). and provides insights into the structures and policies that would be needed in an economy where the goal is enough instead of more. held in Leeds. The conference had two main aims.e. David Fell (Director at Brook Lyndhurst). which explored specific areas where change is needed to achieve a steady state economy. Molly Scott Cato (Economics Speaker for the Green Party).Summary This document is a short summary of Enough is Enough. business leaders. The hope is that these ideas will contribute to the development of a new “macro-economics for sustainability”. University of Surrey Andrew Simms – Policy Director. it is useful to examine why an economy that forever chases more is destined to fail. The second aim was to identify specific. NGO members. continuously increasing production and consumption of goods and services) is (a) not environmentally sustainable.e. The Environmental Limits to Economic Growth In order to appreciate why an economy based on enough is worth striving for. it requires more resources and discharges more wastes. and interested citizens attended and contributed. the report of the first Steady State Economy Conference. CASSE The main proposals in this report come from the conference’s ten interactive workshops. scientists. and help us build a prosperous. it is not possible for the economy to grow forever. implementable policies to achieve a steady state economy (i. an ecologically and socially responsible alternative to economic growth) within the UK. This report summarises the ideas generated at the conference. and (b) not improving people’s lives in wealthy countries like the UK. and one that unites many of the ideas in this report. York University (Canada) Tim Jackson – Professor of Sustainable Development. A key theme that came out of the conference. Roger Martin (Chair of the Optimum Population Trust). As the economy grows. the economy is a sub-system of the environment. Franny Armstrong (Director of The Age of Stupid). Workshop speakers included Kate Pickett (co-author of The Spirit Level). and many others. government employees. Keynote speakers at the conference included:     Peter Victor – Professor in Environmental Studies.

These findings seriously call into question the continued pursuit of economic growth in countries like the UK. more than one billion people in the world still live on less than $1 per day. Between 1900 and 2005. Jobless growth has become a common occurrence. This incredible increase in economic activity has resulted in an equally incredible increase in the use of resources and energy. and the balance has shifted. economic growth fails to improve people’s well-being. The appropriation of materials. energy. The Diminishing Social Returns of Economic Growth Even if we could find a way to grow the economy without using up resources or negatively impacting the environment. an interesting picture emerges. but only up until a point. suggest we are in a state of “global ecological overshoot”. data from surveys of life satisfaction reveal that people have not become any happier. the size of the economy was small compared to the size of the biosphere. so has the production of wastes. leading to species extinctions and biodiversity loss.For the vast majority of human history. While economic output per capita has more than tripled in countries like the UK and U. Recent research indicates that humanity has transgressed three of nine “planetary boundaries”. Economic growth has also failed to deliver lasting solutions to unemployment and poverty. Happiness and life satisfaction increase with income. As the amount of material extracted from the environment has increased. By transgressing them we risk causing abrupt and catastrophic environmental change. from $2 trillion to $47 trillion. These boundaries define the safe operating space for the planet. Despite our continual pursuit of rising economic output in the UK. And even with the 24-fold increase in the size of the global economy over the past century. We are harvesting resources like forests and fish faster than they can be regenerated. Someone is profiting from global economic growth. are now so large that they are destabilising the global climate. there are strong reasons to believe that further economic growth in wealthy countries would not be a worthwhile pursuit. Humanity now uses eleven times as much energy. but it’s not the world’s poor. The result is the steady erosion of the stock of natural resources and the supply of ecosystem services upon which our economies and societies ultimately depend. Given that global resource use is already at an unsustainable level. carbon dioxide. Other environmental indicators. Once people’s basic needs are met and they have enough goods and services. the unemployment rate has bounced up and down over the last forty years.7 billion live on less than $2 per day. and land for human activity has profoundly impacted ecosystems and reduced the space available for non-human species. When data are compared across multiple countries. and producing wastes like CO2 faster than they can be absorbed. since 1950. Emissions of one pollutant in particular. and eight times the weight of material resources every year as it did only a century ago. world economic output increased by a factor of 24. further growth in wealthy countries only serves to reduce the 3 . such as the ecological footprint.S. the economy has grown massively. But over the past century or so. and a total of 2.

A steady state economy represents a positive alternative to the pursuit of endless economic growth. Renewable resources. It is an economy where energy and resource use are reduced to levels that are within ecological limits. The Desirable Alternative to Economic Growth The challenge then is to figure out how to sustain economies that already have enough goods and services. The power to manage resources within the caps should reside at the local level. and limits to inequality prevent big gaps between the rich and the poor. well-being. with individuals and grassroots organisations. but they provide a good starting point for further debate and action. nations.amount of ecological space available to poor countries. Limit Resource Use and Waste Production Why? To achieve a steady state economy. secure employment. There are four key features of a steady state economy: (1) sustainable scale. These caps should be set from the top down. Non-renewable resources. should be used no faster than their waste products (e. 1. such as fisheries and forests. based on the best scientific evidence available about ecological limits. Proposals for a Steady State Economy The Steady State Economy Conference used interactive workshops to investigate ten key areas where change is required to achieve a steady state economy. 4 . and economic stability. like health. resource use and waste production must be stabilised and brought within ecological limits. and where the goal of maximising economic output is replaced by the goal of maximising quality of life. and how it might be implemented. such as fossil fuels. starting at the global level and filtering through international regions. How? Caps should be set on the use of specific resources. where economic growth is still needed to alleviate poverty. (3) efficient allocation. For each proposal we briefly explore why it is necessary. Sustainable scale means that the size of the economy fits within the capacity of ecosystems to provide resources and absorb wastes. and (4) high quality of life. should be harvested no faster than they can be regenerated. The proposals should not be viewed as the definitive answer for how to achieve a steady state economy. And an emphasis on high quality of life means that economic growth takes a backseat to things that really matter to people. Efficient allocation means that the power of markets is harnessed appropriately (taking account of where markets work and where they don’t) to allocate resources among competing uses. however. leisure time. without relying on consumption growth. (2) fair distribution. Fair distribution means that people have equal opportunities to obtain wealth and income. It is an economy that aims to maintain a stable level of resource consumption and a stable population. and local communities. strong communities. CO2) can be absorbed. Below we present a summary of the main proposals that were put forward in the workshops.g.

and thus move towards a steady state democracy. this single step would go a long way towards stabilising global population. How? To achieve greater equality. but this trickle-down approach has not worked. Moreover. adopt. This policy should aim to balance immigration and emigration. We need smaller footprints. Such models allow people to determine wages and salary differentials for themselves. to assess the effects of population growth and recommend other potential stabilisation measures. access to birth control. and implement a non-coercive population stabilisation policy. A detailed system will be required to measure not only the material throughput of the economy. it is therefore necessary to stabilise — not just per capita resource use — but also population numbers. A maximum pay differential would reduce 5 . the government should develop. co-operatives. automatic payment to every individual as a right of citizenship. Progressive taxation and generous social programmes may also help to reduce inequality and eliminate poverty. A citizen’s income would fight poverty by providing an unconditional. and other models of democratic control should be pursued to reduce inequality over the long term. How? To stabilise population in the UK. Stabilise Population Why? All else being equal. or the amount that each of these people consumes increases. increased mental illness. 3. the total resource use of a country will increase when either the number of people living in the country increases. Such high levels of income inequality are associated with a variety of health and social problems. particularly in the short term. To stabilise population globally. especially in a non-growing economy. efforts should be made to democratise the institutions where inequalities originate. There are roughly 80 million unplanned pregnancies per year worldwide — a number that is almost equal to annual global population growth. The gap between the richest and poorest people in the UK has widened considerably over the past thirty years. The conventional wisdom is that “a rising tide lifts all boats”. and promote incentives to limit family size to two or fewer children. population issues should be added to the job description of an inter-departmental minister. but we also need fewer feet. If access to family planning could be provided to all women worldwide. To achieve a steady state economy. in particular the places where people work. including decreased trust. Policies that directly address inequality are required to alleviate these problems. The richest tenth now earns 14 times more than the poorest tenth. and equal rights for women everywhere.Any new resource use policy must ensure that all members of society receive a fair share of the limited supply of resources. but also the social and environmental consequences of that throughput. and higher crime rates. Limit Inequality Why? Economic growth is often supplied as an excuse to avoid dealing with poverty and inequality. 2. Policies that promote employee ownership. the UK should support policies that provide education.

as the money supply tends to increase faster than the volume of goods and services produced. spending on food. (3) instability. pollution. Change the Way We Measure Progress Why? The main economic indicator in use today is gross domestic product (GDP). government taxation and expenditure should be linked to the system of money creation. crime. as the need to pay back an increasing amount of debt requires an increasing amount of economic activity. Each group should include one headline indicator and a number of detailed sub-indicators. or investment in education) with undesirable expenditures (e.g. It lumps desirable expenditures (e. and the UK should promote and participate in a global negotiation to create a neutral international currency to replace the reserve currencies in use today. because if the banks stop lending.e. The key goal to strive towards in a steady state economy would be sustainable and equitable human well-being. the costs of war. and transfer it to the government to spend into existence. as the currencies of a small number of nations have become the dominant “reserve currencies” around the world. 4. This public authority should decide the amount of money necessary to facilitate exchange in the economy. New indicators that do a better job of tracking what we truly care about are required to supplement or even replace GDP. then the money supply must be as well. Banks are able to create money because they can issue loans far in excess of their deposits.e. How? Private banks should be prohibited from creating money out of thin air. The set of indicators should include three groups: the environment. How? A new system of indicators should be created that separates ends (i. instead of GDP growth (which is only one means towards this end). and human well-being. Reform the Monetary System Why? Almost all of the money in circulation in the UK is created by private banks in the form of interest-bearing loans. To prevent inflation. GDP is a good measure of economic activity — of money changing hands — but a poor measure of progress or well-being.g. communities should be encouraged to create their own currencies to support local economic activity. and family breakdown). the economic system collapses. At the same time. Potential headline indicators for each group include: 6 . 5. and (4) inequality between countries. (2) inflation. This debt-based monetary system drives four things: (1) economic growth. and control of the money supply — a public resource — should be transferred to a public authority such as the Bank of England. If the economy is to be stabilised. the way to achieve these goals). create it debtfree. the economic system. entertainment. goals) from means (i.inequality by limiting the income of the highest paid employee in an organisation to a certain multiple of the lowest paid employee.

the government could act as “employer of last resort”. but not so large as to 7 . A firm’s total revenue should be large enough to allow it to be financially viable (i. year.e. How? Instead of attempting to maximise and continually grow profits.e. Combination of life expectancy (an objective measure) and life satisfaction (a subjective measure). This business-as-usual approach cannot continue. Firms. which would result in rising unemployment unless new policies were adopted to prevent this from happening. Individuals should be given the freedom to adjust their working patterns to their preferences. firms should aim to achieve “right-size profits”. which increases resource use. it would not be possible to increase production and consumption if this resulted in an increase in resource use and waste emissions. encouraging even more growth. increasing production and consumption) is relied upon to maintain or increase job opportunities. A guaranteed jobs policy would provide incomes to those unable to find employment. and absorb the wastes produced. economic growth (i. Rethink Business and Production Why? Conventional businesses strive to increase financial profits by reducing costs and competing for market share. with less production. If unemployment were still a concern in the transition to a steady state economy. and relieve the social and psychological problems that arise when people want to work but are unable to find a job. Secure Full Employment Why? In the current economic system. Size of the gap between society’s richest and poorest citizens. 7.Indicator Group Potential Headline Indicator Description of Potential Headline Indicator Biologically productive area necessary to generate the resources consumed by a nation. Environment Ecological Footprint Economic System Human Well-being Income Inequality Happy Life Years 6. Investors tend to put their money into expanding sectors of the economy. In a steady state economy. with the support of government. and guarantee jobs in the same way that it guarantees primary education and medical care. allow useful public works to be completed at relatively low cost. week. The gradual reduction of working time would help keep unemployment low by distributing available work more equally. All else being equal. How? Instead of using technological progress to produce more goods and services (as we tend to do today) we should use it to increase leisure time by gradually shortening the paid working day. and career. while support and incentives should be offered to encourage an overall reduction in working time. to meet capital costs). must adapt in order to operate within ecological limits. The pursuit of ever-increasing profits drives firms to boost production. there would be less work to be done in the economy.

foundations. Wealthy nations should promote technology transfers to developing nations. Yet many nations need to increase their consumption of resources to alleviate poverty and allow people to meet their basic needs. Improve Global Co-operation Why? Global resource use is already at an unsustainably high level. could be used to prevent capital flight if this were a problem. The UK and other wealthy countries must stabilise. 8. and flourishing manner. Where practical. for example. World Bank. Capital controls. which 8 .cause environmental damage. expanding economies must therefore work together on the specific mechanisms that will allow them to co-exist and co-develop in a mutually supportive. non-growing economies and developing. to eliminate the harmful dependency of the South on the North. goods and services should be produced locally. and community interest companies. or “producing”. The revenue from these tariffs could be used for international aid to developing countries. The primary goal of community interest companies. which values “consuming” over “doing”. while others are still pursuing growth. is to achieve a socially beneficial aim. This dominance is problematic for several reasons: (1) consumerism requires that people forever consume more. 9. Change Consumer Behaviour Why? The social norm of consumerism. and (2) an ecological allowance to compare this impact to. their economies in order to provide the ecological space needed for poorer nations to grow. Policy makers should encourage these alternative forms of business by (1) making it simpler to set up (or change to) these forms. These organisational forms are not pre-occupied by growth in the same way as profit-maximising shareholder corporations. How? International organisations such as the United Nations. “being”. and minimum residency times for foreign investment. fair. dominates society. if not degrow. This information would help businesses rescale their level of economic activity to be sustainable. International Monetary Fund. Tariffs should be used to protect industries in steady state economies from competition with industries in countries where environmental and social costs are not being internalised. financial profit is a secondary motive. Wealthy. in particular to help them develop in less materially intensive ways. An individual firm would require two new pieces of information to determine whether it was achieving right-size profits: (1) a measure of its total ecological impact. A steady state economy will also require a shift towards alternative forms of business organisation such as co-operatives. Problems could arise if some nations make the transition to a steady state economy. and (2) by taxing away excess profits in shareholder corporations. and World Trade Organisation should be democratised so that they represent the interests of the majority of people on the planet. These nations stand in stark contrast to wealthy countries like the UK where the benefits of growth have already been realised.

Consumerism only appeals to some of the core human motivations (i. Ordinary people can set a positive example by living values that reject consumerism. Agreement should be sought among leading business schools and economics departments to include compulsory coverage. and how ecological limits can be reflected and respected in policy. rejection of “predict and provide” road policy. 9 . they never achieve fulfilment. The challenge for a steady state economy is to create a new social norm in which the vast majority of citizens routinely choose enough instead of more. Motivation is also key to achieving behavioural change. In order to build an inspiring movement aimed at achieving a steady state economy. hedonism. supporting organisations with objectives that challenge or contradict consumerism. How? The shift towards a “mass behaviour of enoughness” will require the rapid diffusion of new values through the multiple networks that make up society.g. creating the infrastructure to allow new forms of corporate and civic entities to emerge. Expanding the dialogue in these forums could help bring steady state economics into the mainstream. This acceptance needs to be reversed. There are many places where limits to growth are already recognised or discussed in policy (e. connectedness. politicians and the media must end their silence on the alternative to perpetual economic growth. Love.e. (2) happiness derived from consumption is transitory. and creativity are also powerful sources of motivation. and achievement). friendship. Some actions that could help change behaviours include: recruiting influential individuals as agents of change.). How? New forums should be identified (or created) to engage decision makers and opinion influencers in an active debate about the problems of growth and potential economic solutions. status. There is also a need for more rigorous modelling and elaboration of how a steady state economy would work in practice. and yet politicians and the media rarely discuss this viewpoint or the potential of the steady state alternative. carbon budgets. Engage Politicians and the Media Why? Substantial academic research indicates that economic growth cannot and should not remain the policy goal of wealthy nations. within degree courses. promoting the benefits of non-materialistic lifestyles. of the different views concerning sustainability and the limits to growth. and overcoming resistance from large corporations and the state. and (3) consumerism creates and reinforces systemic inequalities. and it is crucial to tap into these. 10. no matter how much individuals consume. individualistic values that form the backdrop to consumerism are reasonable and necessary. There is an implied acceptance across most of society that the self-seeking. as well as a new name that resonates with the public. steady state economics needs a more public and accessible image. etc. Finally. green belts. The production of an independent film that takes people on an emotional journey could be a powerful way to break into the public consciousness.is not possible on a finite planet. spirituality.

and ownership: Economic Concept Investment How it’s Viewed in the Current Economic System Investment is primarily a way to generate financial returns. The concepts need to be vetted and rigorously 10 . producing more and more output per each hour of work) is in the best interests of society. Optimising productivity. It is also a call to move boldly from ideas to action. The ideas presented in this report form the beginning of a blueprint for a sustainable.e. Productivity gains should be used to reduce unpleasant work. have differences of opinion on specific issues. productivity. and efficient economy. Maximising productivity (i. policies designed to achieve this economy). Productivity Ownership Boldness Moving Forward We hope that this report generates debate. and we do not expect readers to agree with every suggestion. the features of the economy we want). It entails forgoing present-day consumption and using the resources saved to build a better future. It’s about using money to make money. Even we. There is a whole spectrum of other innovative ownership models in between. but we cannot start from scratch. from growth to stability. is in the best interests of society. because debate is needed.Creating an Economy Built to Last This report brings together the ideas of the more than 250 people who attended the Steady State Economy Conference in Leeds. We must build a new. How it Would be Viewed in a Steady State Economy Investment is also a way to generate social and environmental returns. The repair work will require us to re-envision fundamental economic concepts such as investment. But the general direction that change must take is becoming increasingly clear — from more to enough. fair. Ownership is not a black-and-white choice between public and private. more resilient economy based on this blueprint.e. We must begin the transition to a steady state economy without delay if we are to achieve well-being for all people within ecological limits. but they should not be used to displace the work that brings joy and meaning to people’s lives. instead of maximising it. Ownership of the means of production falls into one of two categories: public and private.e. Some of the ideas will no doubt seem radical. But this report is more than a collection of ideas to be debated. as the authors. which is in need of extensive repairs. This blueprint includes a solid foundation (i. To move forward we must:  Publicise the downsides of growth and the upsides of a steady state economy: The political movement to transition to a steady state economy needs a home and an inspiring name. We are saddled with the current economic system. and a roof that is held up by this support structure (the goal of sustainable and equitable human well-being). a sturdy support structure (i.

to open the door for more difficult changes. This may sound like an intimidating task. but their implementation will require society to overcome entrenched ways of doing things. Researchers need to provide answers that satisfy people’s concerns in order to build strong credibility for the steady state alternative. Please read the full report. They are mutually supportive. and it’s the one commodity that we can never have enough of. They can be altered.  Build credibility: People want to know how a non-growing economy would work in practice. Politicians and other influential individuals need to drive publicity for the transition.org/leeds2010/videos/ 11 .discussed in public. Encourage behavioural change: The economy is a human construct. Economic “laws” are not like the law of gravity. But at the end of the day.org/enough-is-enough/ Videos of the keynote presentations are also available at: www.steadystate. Start implementing the policies: The policies proposed and discussed at the conference and detailed in this report are positive responses to a system that isn’t working. In today’s hyper-connected world.   But to achieve a steady state economy we must begin the transition now — for time is the ultimate limit that we face. which is available online at: www. then people must also change their behaviours. if we want to change the economy. All we need to do is look at the inspiring ways in which culture and behavioural norms have shifted over time. and what it would mean for them on a day-to-day basis. but it’s not impossible. The most politically feasible policies should be implemented first (taking advantage of opportunities). changes can happen faster than at any point in history.steadystate.

encourage participation in economic debate on a local. promoting the steady state economy as a desirable alternative to economic growth.Economic Justice for All is a discussion forum based in Leeds. organisations.steadystate. UK whose aims and objectives are to:     broaden and deepen the debate on economic justice for all within the context of environmental sustainability. studying the means to establish a steady state economy. and (3) national security and international stability. as a policy goal with widespread public support. with stabilised population and consumption.org Published by CASSE and EJfA © November 2010 12 . CASSE is an international organisation whose mission is to advance the steady state economy.   www. share information and resources to help activists. enable campaigners. activists. We pursue this mission by:  educating citizens. (2) ecological and economic sustainability. and policy makers on the conflict between economic growth and (1) environmental protection. educators and campaigners. and individuals to engage more confidently in economic debate. national and international level.

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